PORTLAND, Oregon (AFP) — The Davis Cup nations tennis tournament is a venerable tradition, begun in 1900 as a means of fostering international understanding through sport.
The Russian and US players who will vie for the 2007 trophy here in the best-of-five match tie starting Friday are too focused on the tennis to give much thought to cultural or political ramifications.
US No. 1 Andy Roddick, 25, was asked if he recalled a time when Russian-US clashes in any sport carried Cold War overtones.
"The only bad Russian I remember growing up was Drago against Rocky," he said, a reference to the fourth installment of Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky" fight films.
Socio-political nuances aside, US captain Patrick McEnroe said it was always exciting to have two strong countries going head-to-head in a team competition.
"They've become a real power in tennis," he said of Russia. "I wouldn't say it's a love fest that we have with them, but all these (US) guys know their team pretty well, and they're all good guys, good competitors.
"I think the bigger goal for us is to try to win the whole thing."
Russian Dmitry Tursunov, who moved from Russia to the United States as a youngster and still has strong ties to California, seemed a bit perplexed to be asked to comment on the cultural similarities and differences between the two countries.
"Obviously the main similarities are both countries are big geographically," he said.
"Both owned Alaska at one point," he added to laughter.
In this day of the internet and instant communication, Tursunov, one of the ATP Tour's most popular bloggers, seemed to indicate that it was odd to think citizens of either country would find the other mysterious.
Differences, he said, come down to individuals.
"You could be very similar to a Russian, but the person next to you could be very different. You dress, we dress as well," he said.
"We don't have bears running in the streets, you don't have Indians camping by the fire in the streets either.
"It's a very strange question," he said. "I'm not sure it pertains to tennis."
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